25 Carl Von Clausewitz Quotes About Warfare

War historians and anyone interested in the psychology behind warfare will enjoy these Carl Von Clausewitz quotes. 

Warfare is as old as human beings, but the psychology and science behind fighting have evolved considerably since our earliest conflicts. 

Learn more about military strategy with our Carl Von Clausewitz quotes.

Who was Carl Von Clausewitz?

Carl Von Clausewitz was a Prussian military theorist and general.

Many recognize his work Vom Kriege, or On War, as an essential treatise on war strategy. 

Check out these facts about Carl Von Clausewitz:

  • His work has been translated into over sixteen books. 
  • Thinkers from the European Enlightenment influenced his work.
  • Clausewitz expanded on the works of Napoleon and Frederick the Great. 

Clausewitz was from Prussia, but was Prussia?

Prussia was a German state located in the Northern European Planes. 

It was part of the German Empire and ended in 1918 when German monarchies were terminated during the German Revolution. 

Carl Von Clausewitz’s theory on war

Clausewitz thought about the moral and psychological aspects of war. 

He focused on factors such as fear, doubt, excitement, and the human element’s role in warfare. 

For as much as he was a warrior, he was also a scholar. 

Clausewitz used his personal experience coupled with his studies to connect the dots between warfare, religion, economy, politics, and leadership. 

The result is a comprehensive study of the nature of war. 

Does Clausewitz’s work still apply today?

The world has changed considerably since Carl Von Clausewitz was alive. 

Weapons have increased in their volume and ability. 

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Clausewitz lived during a time before mutually assured destruction. 

However, military experts and war historians agree that despite the difference in eras, Clausewitz remains relevant today. 

Even though the world has changed, war has remained similar in how it manifests. 

Clausewitz argued that the nature of war extends past any era or time period. 

While technology and political systems have changed significantly since the times of Clausewitz, many aspects of human conflict remain the same. 

To learn more, check out our Clausewitz quotes below. 

Short Carl Von Clausewitz quotes about fighting

Let’s begin with these short and sweet quotes about how to win a fight. 

1. “Engagements mean fighting.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

2. “Fighting is the central military act.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

3. “What do we mean by the defeat of the enemy?” — Carl Von Clausewitz

4. “The object of fighting is the destruction or defeat of the enemy.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

5. “Direct annihilation of the enemy’s forces must always be the dominant consideration.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

Famous Carl Von Clausewitz quotes about the theory behind battle

We start our list with these short Von Clausewitz quotes about theory. 

6. “Theory need not be a positive doctrine, a sort of manual for action.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

7. “Theory then becomes a guide to anyone who wants to learn about war from books.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

8. “Theory is an analytical investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the subject.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

9. “Theory becomes infinitely more difficult as soon as it touches the realm of moral values.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

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10. “It is easier to use theory to organize, plan, and conduct an engagement than it is to use it in determining the engagement’s purpose.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

The best Carl Von Clausewitz quotes about war

Clausewitz is remembered as a brilliant strategist; here are some of his best quotes. 

11. “War is fighting and operates in a peculiar element, danger.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

12. “These preparatory activities are excluded from the narrower meaning of the art of war.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

13. “War is served by many activities quite different from it, all of which concern the maintenance of the fighting forces.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

14. “Tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement; strategy, the use of engagements for the object of the war.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

15. “The theory of war proper, on the other hand, is concerned with the use of these means, once they have been developed, for the purposes of the war.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

Carl Von Clausewitz quotes and sayings about tactics

Von Clausewitz took war tactics very seriously in his planning. 

16. “In tactics, the means are the fighting forces; the end is victory.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

17. “Strategy confers a special significance on the engagement: it assigns a particular aim to it.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

18. “The original means of strategy is victory; that is, tactical success; its ends are those objects which will lead directly to peace.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

19. “The activities characteristic of war may be split into two main categories: those that are merely preparations for war, and war proper.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

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20. “In war, everything is uncertain and variable, intertwined with psychological forces and effects, and the product of a continuous interaction of opposites.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

The top Carl Von Clausewitz quotes about defense

Even though war is usually an offensive act, militaries still call their violence “defense.”

21. “The object of defense is preservation.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

22. “If we are really waging war, we must return the enemy’s blows.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

23. “Thus a defensive campaign can be fought with offensive battles.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

24. “The concept of defense is parrying a blow, and its characteristic feature is awaiting the blow.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

25. “The defensive form of war is not a simple shield, but a shield made up of well-directed blows.” — Carl Von Clausewitz

What do you fight for?

You do not have to be an active military member to fight for something you believe in.

Clausewitz reminds us that wars can be internal or external. 

What are some things you would fight for?

Be sure to tell us in the comments section. 

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